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Fact #139343


Short story:

Nirvana play at The Motor Sports International Garage, Seattle, Washington, USA, supported by The Melvins, Dwarves and Derelicts. A classic photograph of Kurt Cobain in tears is taken backstage after the show by Ian Tilton of Sounds magazine.

Full article:

Keith Cameron (journalist, Sounds) : Around September 1990, I went out to Seattle for a Sounds cover story. The band had just sacked Chad Channing. They'd hired Dan Peters from Mudhoney for the night. Dave Grohl was actually staying at Krist's house, where we were staying. So I had the distinction of sharing a floor with the incoming drummer. The next day we did the interview and photo shoot with Dan, and about two weeks later he was out.
Ian Tilton (photographer, Sounds) : It was a Sub-pop label gig, so it had Dwarves, Melvins, and Nirvana topping the bill. I’m not sure if Nevermind was out yet. I went out with a writer, Keith Cameron, to cover it for Sounds.

We stayed in a hotel the first night, but Krist was very loose and welcoming, the easiest to get along with, and so most of the time we stayed at his house. They gave us good access because they felt they could trust us.

Krist was the funniest one of the band, kept us laughing non-stop, whereas Kurt even then, was pleasant but not forthcoming. It was his band and he had all the control, and he was never coming forward, he was more watching and participating in his own relaxed way, but he didn’t say lots.

He wasn’t an unhappy guy then, though. He seemed quite at ease with himself. I think it was only later that the drugs started messing him up.

One nice thing on that stay was that Kurt and I were chatting, and I told him I was collecting cheesy supermarket packaging, interestingly tacky packaging. He said that he also collected that kind of thing and went off and came back with a couple of examples, one of which was a tin of meat with a little boy’s happy face on it. So I took some pictures of him looking cheeky and holding up this tin of disgusting potted meat product with its wholesome image on the front.

Security was pretty tight that night at the garage, and Keith and I had bought some beers at a local store. They have strict laws about alcohol in some states, so we were waiting outside, chatting to fans, and one of the security guys came out and started taking beers off people that didn’t have them in bags. Then he came up to us and demanded our beers, which were in a bag. I said, “It’s in a bag, you can’t have it.” he said, “Yes, I can. This is our premises.” And he confiscated our beer. Then we went in and you could buy beer in there. I was just amazed at the laws.

At the gig, I got some terrific pictures of him putting the neck of his guitar through an amplifier. I was stood next to them while he was doing that. There were people on the side of the stage looking aghast, you know? I got a whole sequence of guitar going into amplifier, then it breaks into pieces, and then people start picking bits up as souvenirs.

It was a really angst-ridden, frantic performance and he put everything into it, like The Who would but with The Who it’s more of a stage show, and with Kurt, well, he just had so much angst inside him that he was driven to do it. It wasn’t a cabaret thing.

I don’t think he was going out with Courtney at that point. He’d just trashed his equipment and he came off pumped with adrenaline and that energy and emotion has to go somewhere. He just sat down and cried for about thirty seconds. He came off the back of the stage, so the audience couldn’t see him back there. I just followed him out and took the picture.

The rest of the band just accepted it. I’ve spoken to a lot of performers who say they can really relate to that shot, because they know what it feels like. I think people relate to the angst in it. And there’s something also about the fact that he died.

He knew I was taking the shot, and he seemed comfortable with it. He wasn’t stifling his emotions, just being himself. The next shot on the reel, he’s just looking up and talking to somebody.

I always think of it as a snapshot. To be honest, it’s not one of my best. I was better known for set-up shots in the studio, or on location. Technically, a lot of my pictures are better than this. I don’t think it was even used in that issue of Sounds. The one on the cover was a set-up shot of them on the verandah of their house – well, run-down scruffy little shack really, needed a coat of paint.

The shot didn’t get used much while he was alive, but this shot has emerged as a favourite over the years because there are lots of shots of him looking really beautiful, because he was a good-looking guy, a great photographic subject, but not so many where you can see the angst.
(Source : not known)